High Street, Galway
Free Speech
City Life, at Shop Street Galway

The Research Objective:

Providing stronger emphasis on uniqueness in urban planning & place-making, and a focus on the importance of quality in design and quality of life for all citizens!

Principal Researchers:


"Ireland appears to be slowly and painfully emerging from its recent economic shock and troubles and many have offered new ideas about our shared futures. For researchers at the SSRC, this will involve considering the importance of two interconnected phenomena; the experiential economy and place-making. Both are about quality of life. We suggest that focusing on quality of life will enable Ireland to compete internationally and in a more sustainable manner. Indeed, despite the recent economic malaise goods and services that give customers 'an experience' have seen their market share increase. Winners in the experience economy trade on uniqueness, quality, design, and on the symbolic nature of what they offer. Massification has given way to a mature consumer economy where we express our own unique identities through products and services in a way that could not be done in the past. The experiential economy and the importance of the local, the authentic and the designed begin to emerge as fundamental in a renewed focus upon the importance of quality and quality of life in Ireland.

How and where we live, the day-to-day experience of place also matters. Quality urban planning contributes directly to our quality of life and by now there is solid evidence that urban planning design affects us physically, socially and mentally. A lot of it comes down to whether the place you live requires you to drive to attain your daily needs. Planning, building, and maintaining real places worth living in requires efforts; it requires urban design, landscape architecture, and joined-up policy thinking. It requires multidisciplinary perspectives, creativity and an appreciation for uniqueness. We need to think far more about quality of life and additionally tapping the power of smart technology and the web to improve government services and urban liveability. Irish planners and engineers need to focus more on place-making. That is, creating built environments that people are attracted to and enjoy being in. People want to live in well-designed, unique places that are beautiful. We want to live in authentic communities where we feel connected to each other. Indeed, the successful emergence of many cities owes much to place-making, preventing anti-social behaviour, promoting urban 'liveability' and de-emphasising the car."

Extract taken from the article 'Quality, uniqueness and place. Planning for quality of life' by Kevin Leyden and Patrick Collins in The Village Magazine, 9th March 2015

Professor Kevin Leyden

Prof. Kevin Leyden

Kevin M. Leyden is a Professor of Political Science at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He also serves as Co-Director of the Creative, Liveable and Sustainable Communities Cluster of the Whitaker Institute. He was previously the Director of West Virginia University’s Institute for Public Affairs and an Honorary Research Professor of Social Science & Public Policy at the Whitaker Institute.

Professor Leyden’s teaching and research interests include social capital, public policy, public opinion, elections, interest groups, health policy, energy policy, land-use & transportation planning and issues of sustainable development. His research has been published in the American Journal of Public Health, Environmental Health Perspectives, Environment International, Urban Affairs Review, Health & Place, The British Journal of Political Science, Political Research Quarterly, Legislative Studies Quarterly, American Politics Quarterly, American Journal of Health Promotion, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Proceedings of the Institute of Civil Engineers: Urban Design and Planning, and Policy Studies Journal, among others. His current research focuses primarily on the relationship between the community design, social capital, health, and climate change. He serves as a partner with the World Health Organization’s Large Analysis and Review of European Housing and Health Status (LARES), and is a Research Fellow with the Global Metropolitan Forum which is examining the quality of life in ten major international metropolises. In addition, he is currently completing an analysis of transportation planning as part of a research grant from the Irish Environmental Protection Agency. Other recent research grants include an analysis of over 69,000 residents affected by an environmental clean-up project in Parkersburg, West Virginia and an analysis of disaster evacuation plans for the Office of Homeland Security.

Some Recent Publications

  • Hogan, M. J., Kevin M. Leyden, Conway, R., Goldberg, A., Walsh, D., & McKenna-Plumley, P. E. (2016). Happiness and health across the lifespan in five major cities: The impact of place and government performance. Social Science & Medicine, 162, 168-176. [available to download]
  • Kevin M. Leyden and Goldberg, A. (2015). The built environment of communities and social capital. In John M. Halstead and Steven C. Deller (editors), Social Capital at the Community Level: An Applied Interdisciplinary Perspective. New York and London: Routledge
  • Barnes, R., Bauman, A.E., Giles-Corti, B., Knuiman, M.W., Rosenberg, M., Kevin M. Leyden, Abildso, C.G. and Reger-Nash, B. (2015). Motivated to walk but nowhere to walk to: Differential effect of a mass media campaign by mix of local destinations. Preventive Medicine Reports 2, pp. 403-405. [available to download]
  • Bias, T.K., Kevin M. Leyden, and Zimmerman, J. (2015). Exploring Policy-Maker Perceptions of Small City Downtowns in the USA. Planning Practice and Research, pp. 1-17. [available to download]
  • Hogan, M., Johnston, H., Broome, B., Mc Moreland, C., Walsh, J., Smale, B., Duggan, J., Andriessen, J., Kevin M. Leyden, et al. (2015). Consulting with citizens in the design of wellbeing measures and policies. Social Indicators Research, 123(3), pp 857-877. [available to download]
  • Kevin M. Leyden and Collins, P. (2015). Quality, Uniqueness and Place: the Experiential Economy and the importance of the local, the authentic, and the designed. Village (March). [available to download]
  • Kevin M. Leyden and Silke, Richard. (2014). Why local shops are important to local communities. Presentation given at Rural Community Retail Conference, Thurles, Ireland. March 21st 2014. [available to download]

Most Recent Projects and Community Outreach

  • City of Galway: Galway European Capital of Culture Bid 2020 (2014 -2016)
    Critical part of the NUI, Galway team to support PHASE 1 of the bid for Galway to become the European Capital of Culture in 2020. The bid process required an intensive public and stakeholder consultation process and the detailing of novel programming plans. The bid process also required that we work with the city and region to determine how earning a European Capital of Culture designation would affect Galway and its social, infrastructural and economic development in the short and long term. Phase 1 was successful. The collected information that will be useful for on-going research on urban viability and culture. [Galway 2020 Website]
  • Co-creating Urban Spaces: The Transformation of the City COST Winter School, 29 March-1 April, 2016, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland
    Participation in the organisation of the Winter School and provided three lectures. The Winter School was sponsoredby the University of Iceland and EU COST. All students were Post-docs and received ECTS credit.
  • People-Friendly Cities in a Data-Rich World
    Invited Panalist at the Smart Cities Expo: World Congress. 19th of November, 2015 Barcelona, Spain
  • 24 Hour Universal Design Hackathon
    Invited Participant at The International Universal Design Conference, 12th & 13th of November, 2015 Dublin Castle, Ireland.
  • The Liveablity of Towns: Thoughts on Creating an Irish Urban Policy
    Invited Public Presentation at the Conference Realising the Hidden Potential of Ireland’s Towns: Policies & Priorities for their Future. 5th November 2015. The Set Theatre, Kilkenny, Ireland. Sponsored by The Heritage Council of Ireland

Dr Mike Hynes

Dr. Mike Hynes

Mike Hynes is a Lecturer in Political Science and Sociology specialising in Environmental Sociology, Mobilities and Sustainable Transport, Sustainability Research and Society-Technology-Environment-Interactions. He is co-chair of the Governance and Sustainable Development research cluster, a member of the Teaching & Learning (T&L) committee and a board member of the Social Sciences Research Centre (SSRC).

Dr Hynes obtained first-class honours Batchelor of Science Degree in Information Technology (IT) through Oscail/DCU, the National Distance Learning Centre, in 2007. He obtained an honours Master’s Degree in IT in 2009 from the National University of Ireland, Galway. He's PhD research work for the ConsEnSus Project (2009 to 2013) was to explore the advantages and drawbacks of ‘virtual mobility’ options and their sustainability attributes. This sociological study critiqued telework policy and practice for their overemphasis on technology-induced efficiency and productivity gains and identified contradictions with wider social and environmental sustainability goals in the areas of work and consumption. Mike has had a long-standing interest in sustainability issues related to transport, technology adoption and diffusion and socio-technical transitions, which reflects his previous work experience and his intellectual curiosity regarding diverse forms of technology use in everyday contexts (e.g. households, businesses, organisations). He is very familiar with key theoretical approaches to sustainability transitions and related areas of debate (e.g. MLP, EM, various practice-theoretical and environmental sociological approaches) and he has successfully applied these insights to the topic of sustainable transport, mobility and the ‘consumption of distance’ in his previous research. Current research interests continue to focus on ICT and the societal changes stimulated by open social media platforms, policy design in relation to work and environmental decision-making, and issues relating to socio-technical transition processes.

Some Recent Publications

  • Mike Hynes (2016). Developing (Tele)work? A multi-level sociotechnical perspective of telework in Ireland. Research in Transportation Economics. [in press, available to download]
  • Rau, Henrike, Hynes, Mike, and Heisserer, Barbara (2016). Decision-Making in Turbulent Times: Transport Policy and Governance in Ireland during and after the ‘Celtic Tiger’ Period. Case Studies on Transport Policy, 4(2):pp. 45-56. [available to download]
  • Davies, A.D., Fahy, F., Rau, H., Devaney, L., Doyle, R., Heisser, B., Mike Hynes, Lavelle, M.J. and Pape, J. (2014). ConsEnSus: Consumption, Environment and Sustainability. EPA Ireland, Co. Wexford. [available to download]
  • Mike Hynes (2014). Telework is Not Working: A Policy Review. The Economic and Social Review, 45(4), winter, pp. 579–602. [available to download]
  • Mike Hynes (2014). Consuming Distance or (all) Consuming Work? The case of telework. In A.R. Davies, F. Fahy, and H. Rau (eds), Challenging Consumption: pathways to a more sustainable future, pp. 81-98. London: Routledge
  • Mike Hynes (2013). What’s ‘Smart’ About Working from Home? Telework and the sustainable consumption of distance in Ireland. In C. Fowley, C. English, and S. Thouësny (eds), Internet Research, Theory, and Practice: Perspectives from Ireland, pp. 225-243. Dublin: Research-Publishing. [available to download]

Most Recent Projects and Community Outreach

  • Presentation to An Taisce Green-Schools Programme Meeting (January 2016)
    On the latest research in environmental sociology, sustainability and transport. [acknowledgement letter]
  • Member of the 'Future City Network'
    An informal group of academics, Environmental NGOs, sustainable transport activists, and other concerned groups and citizens interested in envisioning a more sustainable future for Galway
  • Mobilities and Liveability in Galway Project
    An innovative research project seeking to capture people’s opinions and understanding of transport, mobility and liveability in Galway City, Ireland. The study is being carried out by researchers and undergraduate students from the School of Political Science & Sociology at the National University of Ireland Galway over the summer months of June, July and August 2016. [project webpage]